Ma­hao fam­ily speaks out

Makes sev­eral de­mands on govern­ment Ex­presses con­cern over in­con­sis­ten­cies in Phumaphi re­port

Lesotho Times - - News - ’Marafaele Mohloboli

THE fam­ily of slain for­mer army com­man­der, Maa­parankoe Ma­hao, has made sev­eral de­mands on the govern­ment and is threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tion should they not be met as a mat­ter of ur­gency.

The fam­ily has also ex­pressed con­cern at con­tra­dic­tions in the re­cently re­leased Phumaphi re­port, with re­gards Lieu­tenant-gen­eral Ma­hao’s po­si­tion in the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF).

Lt-gen Ma­hao was fa­tally shot by his col­leagues on 25 June 2015 just out­side Maseru. The LDF an­nounced Lt-gen Ma­hao was re­sist­ing ar­rest when he was killed, which the fam­ily has dis­missed as un­true.

Af­ter the killing, Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili asked the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) to help es­tab­lish the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the tragedy, re­sult­ing in a Com­mis­sion of In­quiry led by Jus­tice Mpa­phi Phumaphi of Botswana. The 10-mem­ber com­mis­sion car­ried out its in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­tween 31 Au­gust and 23 Oc­to­ber 2015.

Dr Mo­sisili re­leased Jus­tice Phumaphi’s re­port in par­lia­ment last week, but with some sec­tions deleted from the doc­u­ment. The premier told the leg­is­la­ture he had to re­move those sec­tions be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns.

How­ever, while the Ma­hao fam­ily has ex­pressed grat­i­tude at SADC’S ef­forts to get to the bot­tom of their son’s killing, it be­lieves Jus­tice Phumaphi could have been more con­sis­tent in some of his find­ings. The fam­ily also be­lieves the re­gional bloc should have made a fol­low-up and en­sure govern­ment’s full co­op­er­a­tion with the in­quiry.

The Ma­haos ex­pressed their frus­tra­tion at a press con­fer­ence held in Maseru this week, while also call­ing for the na­tion to be “calm”.

Pro­fes­sor Nqosa Ma­hao told the press briefing: “Around the death of Lt-gen Ma­hao, some sig­nif­i­cant progress was made in so far as the com­mis­sion as­cer­tained cer­tain facts which dis­pel and lay to rest false claims made by the LDF with re­gards to why he was killed. How­ever, we can­not con­ceal our frus­tra­tion with the fact that the com­mis­sion failed in what was the most crit­i­cal task.

“This con­cerns un­cov­er­ing the names of all LDF per­son­nel who par­tic­i­pated in the op­er­a­tion that killed Lt-gen Ma­hao, as well as a com­plete bal­lis­tics port­fo­lio of ev­i­dence nec­es­sary in a crim­i­nal case. On both counts, the fault does not lie with the com­mis­sion but the govern­ment of Le­sotho and the LDF.

“From the very be­gin­ning of the in­quiry, govern­ment and LDF lawyers adopted a scotched-earth stratagem of de­feat­ing the ob­jec­tive of get­ting to the bot­tom of the facts. In its re­port, the com­mis­sion laments the fact that the LDF with­held ma­te­rial ev­i­dence from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.” Ev­i­dence with­held, he said, in­cluded weapons used in the op­er­a­tion, the ve­hi­cle that car­ried Lt-gen Ma­hao’s body, and the cloth­ing he was wear­ing.

“The LDF also re­fused to pro­vide the com­mis­sion with the names of the per­son­nel that car­ried out the op­er­a­tion,” Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao said.

“Ac­cord­ing to Le­sotho’s crim­i­nal law, th­ese sor­did acts are a crime of de­feat­ing the ends of jus­tice by tam­per­ing with the crime scene.”

Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao, SADC did not put enough pres­sure on the govern­ment to co­op­er­ate with Jus­tice Phumaphi and his com­mis­sion­ers.

“Hav­ing in­vested more than M6 mil­lion into the in­quiry, we be­lieve SADC lacked the fol­low-through to in­ter­vene and de­mand full co­op­er­a­tion when th­ese crude acts of sub­terfuge were un­der­way.

“At that crit­i­cal mo­ment, the (SADC) Fa­cil­i­ta­tor (in Le­sotho), South Africa’s Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, should have closely mon­i­tored the in­quiry to en­able him to weigh in on the Le­sotho govern­ment to fully com­ply with its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions,” he charged.

Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao also noted some of the com­mis­sion’s find­ings, which he said war­ranted im­me­di­ate im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“The com­mis­sion es­tab­lished that there had been pre­vi­ous at­tempts by the LDF on Lt-gen Ma­hao’s life, in­clud­ing the in­fa­mous 30 Au­gust 2014 dawn at­tack on his homestead. Thus his mur­der on 25 June 2015 can­not be cast in iso­la­tion,

“All this ev­i­dence puts paid to the black pro­pa­ganda reeled with­out re­straint in some quar­ters that this was an ac­ci­den­tal death. It con­firms what we have al­ways main­tained that his death was an or­ches­trated and well-re­hearsed ex­tra­ju­di­cial mur­der by rogue el­e­ments in the LDF and some politi­cians,” he said.

“With th­ese find­ings, the govern­ment can no longer hide be­hind the claims of ‘op­er­a­tion gone wrong’, but has to be seen to dis­charge its con­sti­tu­tional duty to fa­cil­i­tate crim­i­nal charges against, not only the ju­nior op­er­a­tives de­ployed to carry out the heinous act, but also against those who or­dered it.

“We urge Ba­sotho and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to see to it that proper jus­tice and not a cover-up, is dis­charged to the full ex­tent.”

Prof Ma­hao also said the govern­ment should pay Lt-gen Ma­hao’s salary ar­rears since the com­mis­sion had es­tab­lished that his ap­point­ment as LDF com­man­der was con­sti­tu­tional.

“The com­mis­sion es­tab­lished that Lt-gen Ma­hao was prop­erly and con­sti­tu­tion­ally ap­pointed com­man­der of the LDF on 29 Au­gust 2014. In the premise, we urge the govern­ment to ur­gently fa­cil­i­tate the pay­ment of ar­rears of his salary from the date of his ap­point­ment which the LDF with­held from him.

“In a law-based and con­sti­tu­tional state, it is only fair and proper to do so.

“We shall also be rais­ing this mat­ter with the Fa­cil­i­ta­tor, as well as that of com­pen­sa­tion of Lt-gen Ma­hao’s prop­erty de­stroyed by the LDF dur­ing the at­tack on his home on 30 Au­gust 2014.

“Re­dress on th­ese mat­ters goes a long way to­wards reestab­lish­ing Le­sotho as a state that re­spects the rule of law and not a state of the might of the gun,” said Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao.

The pro­fes­sor how­ever, said the fam­ily was con­cerned with some parts of the re­port.

He said: “Re­gret­tably, we are un­able to find com­mon ground with the com­mis­sion’s con­tra­dic­tory find­ing that Lt-gen Ma­hao’s re­moval and de­mo­tion was ‘le­gal’, but the man­ner in which it was done was flawed as the prime min­is­ter’s ‘show cause’ was ill-ad­vised (p.58). In sharp con­trast in (p.44) the com­mis­sion goes at length to find that the whole ex­er­cise was legally flawed.”

The fam­ily also made it clear that should the govern­ment fail to do as re­quested, it shall be left with no op­tion but to in­struct its lawyers “to pro­ceed with a case the de­ceased had al­ready in­sti­tuted in the courts of law” re­gard­ing his salary is­sue.

The fam­ily has also called for the im­me­di­ate sus­pen­sion of all those im­pli­cated in cases in­ves­ti­gated by the com­mis­sion and for govern­ment to come up with a “trans­par­ent plan of im­ple­men­ta­tion” of the Phumaphi rec­om­men­da­tions. The Ma­haos have also urged SADC to ur­gently de­ploy a “much-boosted Over­sight Task Team with a much broad­ened man­date to en­force com­pli­ance”.

Pro­fes­sor Nqosa Ma­hao.

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